__The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, March 30, 1995 - 3
Better Nate Than Never
By Brian A. Gnatt
Daily Arts Writer
The Detroit band Sponge has been
playing area clubs for a few years, but
have just recently hit the big time with
their catchy and radio-friendly single
"Plowed," from their debut album,
"Rotting Pinata." While the track rock-
ets up the charts, and is granted Buzz
Bin status on MTV, Sponge made a
stop in Ann Arbor last week, filling the
opening slot of Live's spring tour.
soaks up a
With their blend of alterno-rock,
Sponge has mastered mainstream mu-
sic for the '90s. With the crunchy gui-
tars, rich and powerful vocals, and vir-
tuous riff magic, "Rotting Pinata" in-
troduces a handful of good songs from
Before their March 21 set at Hill
Auditorium, lead vocalist Vinnie (yes,
another one-namer) had some time to
talk about Sponge's recent success.
Sporting seven earrings, thrift store
On the road
While barreling down State Street
last week, I went past a car that had an
unusual sign on it. The sign read,
"Sears Driving School."
My immediate reaction was to get
as far away from the car as possible
without going off the street and run-
ning over the few pedestrians who
still use the sidewalks. My second
reaction was to wonder, "Why would
you go to Sears for driving lessons?"
I can understand power tools or appli-
ances - but driving lessons? That's
almost as bad as buying clothes there.
This sight detoured me onto
memory lane and the time I once
served in driver's training.
It was a summer-long process
whereby I was car-pooled (or van-
pooled) to the school district's ad-
ministrative offices and sat for hours
in a stuffy classroom with 50 other
soon-to-be drivers listening to an ec-
centric librarian (whom I'll call Drew)
reiterate residential speed limits.
These lectures were tempered with
filmstrips on subjects like "the two-
second rule." A law enforcement of-
ficial came to answer such questions
as, "Is it against the law to drive
barefoot?" (The answer is no.)
The actual driving only happened
four times during the summer. This
provided me with an opportunity to
(a) practice driving and (b) test the
car's seatbelts when my "driving
buddy" (whom I'll call Sean to pro-
tect the innocent) took the wheel.
It's not that Sean is a bad driver; I
just would not venture within 10miles
of any road I knew he would be on.
Sean was only marked down for two
things on his driving test: consistently
exceeding the speed limit and cross-
ing over the center line. Our driving
instructor passed him anyway, say-
ing, "But make sure you work on that
yellow line thing."
After serving as Sean's crash
dummy, I then had to make several
dozen visits to the office of then-
Secretary of State Richard H. Austin
for such services, or, shall we say,
unfunded mandates, as eye testing,
photo processing and "testing."
"If it starts raining out, you should:
(a) Honk your horn. (b) Turn on your
emergency flashers. (c) Turn on your
headlights and pump your brakes
when stopping. (d) Pass on the shoul-
der." (The correct answer is a.)
The real test began when I started
driving with my parents on the "per-
mit." A permit is like a license except
it doesn't have a photo and you have
th drive with your parents.
As soon as I turned the key in the
ignition of my parents' car, it became
clear that they don't teach you every-
thing you need to know in driver's
training. The segment on stick shifts
consisted of the following:
Drew said, "There are some cars
that have manual transmissions in-
stead of automatic. Those cars re-
quire you to shift gears while driving.
Can anyone think of why someone
would want a car like this?"
"Because shifting helps make you
Drew then mumbled something
about gas mileage and cranked up the
filmstrip machine for "The Left Turn
Lane and You - Part IV."
Drew's instruction did not quite
prepare me for the stops and stalls that
lay ahead. Complex motor skills are
required to drive a stick shift without
stalling at each four-way stop and
hitting the car behind you each time
you are stopped on a hill. Lacking
such skills, I learned that it is possible
to fake them by giving the car a lot of
gas before letting up on the clutch.
This also helps if you accidentally try
Eo take off in third gear instead of in
first. (It usually doesn't work for fifth
gear, though.) Also, this technique
should not be used on dirt roads.
After driving on my own for al-
most a year, Drew was nothing more
than a dot in my rearview mirror and
Sean was nothing more than an on-
'Meteor' still strikes hard
By Fred Rice
Daily Arts Writer
What ever became of the great
disaster flick? Why aren't they made
anymore? Why did Hollywood forget
one of the greatest dramatic concepts
to hit the big screen?
The recent release of "Outbreak"
sort of rekindles the disaster movie
era, but lacks the basic element: camp.
Almost every flick featured ordi-
nary people who demonstrate tremen-
dous courage, heroism and love un-
der the duress of natural or unnatural
terrors. It's what producers like to call
the "human element." Stupid writing
and excessive histrionics tended to
undermine their serious and tragic over-
tones and, instead, molded them into
enormous blocks of cheese - some
people might describe them by this
obvious pun -but the campiness never
failed to entertain audiences.
Everyone easily remembers the
but few can recall the slew of hijacked,
accident prone flicks such as "Airport
'75" and "Airport '79" whose wide
audiences considered the subject mat-
A few of these movies actually
attracted excellent casts. "The
Poseidon Adventure" (1972) starred
Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine in
a cruise ship that flips over during a n
awful storm and provides for terrific
upside down sets. Or "The Towering
See ROCK, Page 8
ware, and best of all, purple with
black polka dotted hair, Vinnie's fi-
ery stage presence proved as lively as
his off-stage personality.
Although Sponge has only been
around for a few years, Vinnie said he
and guitarist Joey Mazzola had been in
different bands together throughout the
'80s, and the two had played on and off
with brothers Mike (guitar) and Tim
Cross (bass), before forming Sponge
three years ago. With influences rang-
ing all over the musical spectrum, many
ofVinnie's musical and vocal inspira-
tions flow from the pioneers of modern
"I draw from older Bowie, Lou
Reed and I love Tom Waits," Vinnie
said. "It's interesting. I don't necessar-
ily hear that in what we do, but just the
element in lyrics and things. Maybe in
terms of performance vibe too."
And their performances do live up
to the talk. While the band's music is
poundingoff the stage, Vinnieis thrash-
ing all over the stage, dancing, moving,
and flailing all over the place. The
music sounds even better live than on
the album, and was even able to get an
impatient Live crowd to stand up and
enjoy the band's set.
"Tome, a live show is always much
more than just playing the songs, be-
cause you can play the songs on arecord
any day of the week," Vinnie said. "I
think that's in terms of a little more
visual thing going on, as opposed to:
'Here's our songs, hope you enjoy
them.' Sometimes it's just like playing
finds its v
clubs with no one there, and you do
things that maybe attract attention. At
the risk of sounding like some kind of
pompous rock guy, that's what happens
to you. You wanna go and create some
kind of fucking attention."
Even though "Rotting Pifiata" is
just beginning to shed some light on
Sponge, the band is already heavily
into writing songs for their next album.
At their Ann Arbor show, Sponge de-
buted two of their new tracks, with
good responses from the crowd. "The
newest stuff is always the best stuff,"
Vinnie said. "The old stuff sucks. It's
probably a little boredom, but I think
the new stuff is great."
With their single, "Plowed," the
catchy riff and unforgettable chorus
("in a world of human wreckage") gave
Sponge national attention, with contin-
ued support for the band and its album.
With a second single planned, the
poppier "Molly," Sponge has a strong
backing from both alternative and AOR
radio, and also MTV.
"You can't deny the impact of
MTV in terms of selling a band,"
Vinnie admitted. "I think(radio) jump-
ing in has helped MTV and vice versa.
Lots of stations aren't leaders, and
they react to MTV, and all of the
sudden it snowballs. In terms of get-
ting on a tour, maybe radio and MliV
get you on a tour. All those things
together add up to some type of suc-
cess, and they feed off each other."
With more dates scheduled with
Live, and then more touring with The
Cult, Sponge plans to be on the rad
supporting their record until early next
year, when they will head back into the
studio. Meanwhile, with the band's
popularity growing furiously, Vinnieis
still skeptical to deem the band success-
ful. "If I record another record, and it's
released, that would be my definitionof
success. You could lay aplatinum record
on me, you could lay a gold recordbn
me, and I would go, 'Yeah, that's O1,
but are we going to make another rec6rd
again next year?"'
Well, that actually depends on
how good your jump shot is.